That was the number of homeless kids this past year in North Dallas High School.
Homeless students are four times more likely to drop out, the National Coalition for the Homeless says. So, to try to change those odds, North Dallas High opened the Dallas school district’s first drop-in center three years ago.
“We’ve got breakfast tacos, we’ve got fruit, we’ve got juice, we’ve got cookies,” said Jim Rain, a drop-in center volunteer from The Church of the Incarnation, which is across the street from the high school. “Kids who’ve been identified by the school as homeless are free to drop in and get some breakfast, get some toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary stuff. We also have a clothing closet.”
The drop-in center helps turn the “homeless student” label into a real person.
‘Very Good Motivators’
Kymberly Jackson was in the drop-in center on a recent Friday morning for food and friends. The 16-year-old homeless student, who just wrapped up her sophomore year, lives in a shelter with her mom and two younger sisters.
She used to be pinned down by her bad behavior. But now she’s wrestling. It’s helped change her life.
“Gave me something do to besides fighting,” she said. “So I just turned that fighting into something positive.”
Kymberly took a Texas wrestling title this year, which was a first for the district and the North Dallas High Bulldogs. Last month, she earned a national title.
Next month, she goes international for a shot at the Junior Olympics.
For all that, she’s grateful to the folks back home.
“Because it’s like there are a lot of people here that motivate me,” she says. “They’re very good motivators and they have good spirits. [There are] some people from church, so if I need to be prayed for, if I need to talk to someone about something, they’re always there.”
The Church of the Incarnation helped fill out Mark Pierce’s vision of this drop-in center. Pierce, the homeless education director for the Dallas school district, borrowed ideas from across the country, but most of those centers weren’t in schools.
“Our primary objective is to the get these kids to school every single day,” Pierce says. “And to get them to their school of origin so they will graduate. Because they’re much more likely to graduate from the school they started at once they’re in high school. That’s where friends are, that’s where activities are. That’s where the teachers are that know them and the counselors that know them.”
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